Supreme Court to Take Up LGBT Job Discrimination Cases

April 22, 2019 by Dan McCue

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to take up the question of whether provisions of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting employment discrimination applies to LGBT individuals.

The justices said they would hear Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, which has been consolidated with Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, cases involving individuals who claim they were fired because of their sexual orientation.

The Georgia case involves a discrimination claim filed by an employee of Clayton County, a suburb of Atlanta. The consolidated case, Altitude Express, involved a gay skydiving instructor who claims he was fired because of his sexual orientation.

The justices also said they would hear R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, a case from Michigan involving a funeral home employee who was fired after disclosing that she was transitioning from male to female and dressed as a woman.

The funeral home argues in part that Congress was not thinking about transgender people when it included sex discrimination in Title VII.

The cases will be argued during the high court’s fall term, with decisions likely to be handed down in June 2020, just as Democrats and Republicans are preparing for their presidential nominating conventions.

In addition to becoming a hot button issue in the presidential campaign, the cases will likely be seen as a litmus test for the court, which has theoretically grown more conservative since President Donald Trump successfully appointed two justices: Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does not specifically mention sexual orientation or transgender status. However, a series of recent rulings have said it does apply to members of the LGBT community.

Federal appeals courts in New York (the Second Circuit) and Chicago (the Seventh Circuit) have ruled that gay and lesbian employees are entitled to protection from workplace discrimination.

Meanwhile, the federal appeals court in Cincinnati (the Sixth Circuit) has extended similar protections for transgender people.

The Trump administration has argued Title VII was not intended to provide protections to gay and transgender individuals in the workplace.

Separately, the White House has withdrawn an Obama-era guidance to treat claims of transgender students as sex discrimination.

As is their custom, the justices did not say why they took up the cases.

 

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